Monday, February 19, 2007

Sandwiched

More on sandwiches.

Could have titled this Being a Baby Boomer, which means that I know where I was when I Wanna Hold Your Hand made the top ten. Think transistor radio at recess, blacktop.

But Baby Boomers are now the Sandwich Generation. Booming isn't exactly how you'd describe us. Squished, maybe. Or squashed.

The Sandwich Gen has divided loyalties. We're squeezed between (1) the needs of adult children and wanting to help them by spending time with our grandchildren, and (2) the needs of parents who may be aging gracefully, but by all accounts, like us, are aging nonetheless.

For some of us this situation feels truly hopeless. That's especially true during a "crisis." For example, my daughter lives on the West coast but I live in Chicago, not exactly next door.

So when I got a call telling me that by some miracle, she and her spouse were able to buy a house in L.A. and BOOM had even found one, this was exciting but weird since I couldn't hop on over to see it. We need not go into the details of the miracle, but perhaps both she and #1 working full time had something to do with it.

But moving is stressful, no matter how miraculous. Last I looked it rated # 8 on the Most Stressful Life Events list. My practice for sure validates this. I can look at a new patient sometimes and know that the good city is not being kind to transplants.

So of course when my kid called a week later to say,
I don't know HOW we're going to DO this. We have SO much stuff and I can't take off from work, I just GOT this job...
Well, you can imagine the guilt. Another mom would have hopped on the next plane. But I'm a professional and I can't always hop the next plane, and my kids know this and don't expect it. Most of the time professionals can't just hop on the next plane.

But we wish we could.

Then there's the SECOND SLICE OF BREAD, the fiercely independent more than admirable octogenarians. Both my parents and F.D.'s mother are beyond admirable. They're venerable, paragons of humans we all wish we'll be one day, working everything in their power to avoid dependency, even the need for an occasional software tweak.

Dad (86): I don't know what I did, but I can't find AOL.

Me: Lemme take a look. Hmm. Seems you uninstalled it.

Dad: Maybe. I might have. I was having trouble with something and I didn't want to bother anyone so I tried a few things.

Me: People make mistakes, anyone can do that, uninstall AOL. It's cool you're not afraid to try. This is no problem.

And of course it ISN'T. It's fun.
Then there's Mom.

Mom: I have a doctor's appointment and your father has a blood test and they're both at the same time, same hospital. It's okay, though, we'll take a cab.

Me: What time?

Mom: It's OKAY.

Me: WHAT TIME!?

Mom: 9:00, Tuesday.

Me: Thanks for making it early. I'll pick you up at 8:30.

Mom: Well, I know you start work late in the morning. Can you make it 8:15? We don't want to be late. Oh, and we've got a ride home.

Of course.

Is this not enviable? Am I not lucky? If it seems I am publicly overly grateful (and I hope it does) it's because I am totally grateful and it is a Jewish thing to express gratitude.

Which brings me to the THIRD SLICE OF TOAST. Oh, you didn't know there would be a 3rd slice? I've always known.

Right now I'm in Israel, if only for a few more hours. A big tentacle of the family lives here. F.D.'s sister and brother-in-law who made the move, uprooted their young children many years ago. This is the ultimate move for a Jew, wandering back over to the Holy Land to settle forever.

Thus I have what are called k'rovim, literally, near ones, dear nieces, nephews, grandnephews, a grandniece, and of course, the wonderful parents/grandparents, all living very far away from the US of A. So the draw to see family in Israel is huge.

But here's the real truth about this draw, this 3rd slice that's pressing on the ol' jelly.

It's not just them. It's Israel, the people, the religiosity and the secularity (so Jewish), the land, the architecture, the ruins, the WALL, the ocean, the shells. Even the ocean is better (and you know I love Miami). The country gets way under your skin, the stones invade your identity. The plants take over if you've seen them often enough.

I wasn't going to even go, honest. I liked my denial. I was going to wait a little longer, even though it had been 3.5 years since I'd been there last, and that's a long time. The family, my s-i-l and various combinations of children, had visited Chicago more than twice since then.

But when squeeze came to shove I boarded an El Al plane last Monday night, alone.

F.D. had left an hour before me on British Air.

Why did we do it that way? Like I said, I wasn't going to go. When he made his plans, arranged his ticket, I said,
Honey. Go without me. It's too expensive, I have too much to do, it's Okay. You go. We'll save the money.
But it wasn't Okay. And one day in a fugue (ha! blame it on the fugue) I walked into that travel agent's office, the one who hadn't seen me in years and said,
Get me on a plane to Israel on February 12.
Funny how they can just DO that.

Flew El Al to hear the pilot speaking Hebrew and the flight crew with their heavily Hebrew accented English. I know these guys will get me there. They know the way.

And my fellow passengers were mostly Christians. It is a very common thing for Christians to arrange tours to Israel and this group from the South had a good deal of charm.

I could tell they weren't Jewish because no one pushed in line or complained about the wait at security. And they could tell that I was a yid by my looks I suppose or was it the confident way I did push through, until I realized that there was nowhere to go. It does get boring waiting.

Anyway, we all eventually settled into our seats on the plane and got pretty friendly. There was the obligatory video on a screen boasting Israel's scenery, birds, soldiers, hotels, Chassidim, wildlife, nightlife, shopping, artifacts and ruins, not necessarily in that order. A retired fellow in a golf shirt across the aisle asks me about the book I'm holding.

Retired fellow in golf shirt: Do you read that right to left or left to right?

Me: Oh, it's right to left. (I show him). See?

Retired fellow: Where you from little lady?

Me: Oh, I'm from Chicago.

Retired fellow: COLD! Ever been to IzRayEl before?

Me: Yes, many times.

Retired fellow: This is my first time. Where will you be? On vacation in Jerusalem?

Me: Oh, I don't take real vacations. I visit. Relatives.

Retired fellow: So this is a visit?

Me: Yes, this is a visit.

Retired fellow: Oh. But you're not from there, you're not from Israel?

Me: No.
But what I SHOULD have said, what was on the tip of my tongue, what I wanted to say was this:
The purpose of this trip? Same for me as for every Jew. It's why we go. It's why we should go more often.
I'm going home. That's why I'm going to Israel.
That's what I should have said. Talk about pressure. Even the stones can guilt a Jew.



Copyright 2007, TherapyDoc

5 comments:

mimi said...

Love Cafe Hillel. Great coffee and a place to people-watch. Pre-Starbucks and not fabricated.

TherapyDoc said...

Is it me or does everything feel more authentic even when it's a direct rip-off of something else?

J said...

Nice photos--you should post more if you have them.

And yes, you are lucky. I wish my parents would experiment with the computer (I keep telling them that's the only way they'll learn), but the excessive hand-holding I end up doing far exceeds the limits of my patience. Then again, I guess it's the least I can do...

Pat said...

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